Tag Archive | "Home Office’s Police Innovation Fund"

City police recruit law firms tackle cyber criminals


In a pilot programme that could have huge implications for the future of cyber security law enforcement, the City of London Police will be pursuing cyber criminals through civil courts rather than criminal courts.

The force will work with private sector law firms to seize and recover assets from criminals through civil litigation procedures for the recovery of assets. Solicitors will be tasked with recouping the assets using civil litigation, potentially raising the prospect of a panel of firms pursuing cases on a no win, no fee basis or through third-party funders.

The force’s Economic Crime Directorate believes that this method will allow far quicker identification, seizure and return of assets to victims.

The two-year pilot scheme has been launched by the City of London Police. It will be deployed in tandem with asset recovery under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), adding another weapon to the armoury of law enforcers.

A working group to oversee the experiment has been set up by the City of London police, officers from the National Crime Agency, and Metropolitan police, and law and private investigation firms.

The force says the scheme is a way of more effectively tackling fraud, which is now the biggest type of crime, estimated to cost £193bn a year and overwhelming police and the criminal justice system. The Office for National Statistics said in July that there had been more than 5.8m incidents of cybercrime in the past year, enough to virtually double the headline crime rate in England and Wales.

The experiment, which is backed by the government and being closely watched by other law enforcement agencies, is expected to lead to cases reaching civil courts this year or early next year. Year one of the project will be part-funded through a £157,000 grant from the Home Office’s Police Innovation Fund. Officers have applied for similar funding for year two.

Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, operational lead for the pilot said: ’This innovative new scheme will hopefully allow us to be more flexible and creative in how we identify and seize criminal assets in certain cases to get those funds back to the victims of crime and out of the hands of criminals.’

In July the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee produced a highly critical report on proceeds of crime, saying the regime is not fit for purpose and calling for radical reform. Its recommendations included more collaboration between public bodies involved in POCA and the private sector, and the creation of a market for private enforcement.

As reported in the ‘Gazette’, one firm that submitted evidence to the committee calling for such a market was Pinsent Masons. Alan Sheeley, head of civil fraud and asset recovery at the firm, described the pilot as a ‘vital step forward’, adding “This is a really exciting and long overdue step for law enforcement agencies in the UK.”

Less convinced, as reported in the ‘Guardian’, is Katie Wheatley, joint head of criminal law at Bindmans, a London law firm. She expressed unease over the proposals, which she said gave police “what they would regard as an easy deterrent, without having the inconvenience of proving an offence to a criminal standard.”

She said the plan risked creating a conflict between private firms’ profit motive and the fairness of the process. “We’ve seen privatisation in this context in other ways, for example prison privatisation,” she said. “We all know how badly that’s gone wrong.”

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